A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge Thursday issued a temporary restraining order against the county Board of Elections preventing it from releasing the names of nearly 95,000 petitioners in an ongoing feud over the redevelopment of the former Solo Cup manufacturing plant in Owings Mills.
Judge Kathleen Cox issued the order at the request of the Committee for Zoning Integrity Inc., which collected the signatures and turned them into county elections officials 10 days ago to be verified.
The petitioners seek to have an Aug. 28 vote by the Baltimore County Council for new zoning maps in Districts 2 and 6 sent to referendum in November 2014.
Howard Brown, the leader of the opponents of the redevelopment of the Solo Cup site to a new shopping center anchored by Wegmans called Foundry Row, helped to form the committee. In the 6th District, developer David Cordish joined the fray after the new zoning map threatened the future of a shopping center he owns anchored by a Walmart.
Cox ordered that the county elections board not release the names of the petitioners until after a hearing on the merits of the case, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Towson. The board on Oct. 24 issued a ruling that it would release the names to officials of Greenberg Gibbons, the developer of Foundry Row, so the company could perform an independent verification of all of the signatures.
Brian Gibbons, president of Greenberg Gibbons, did not return a call for comment Thursday.
In its complaint for the temporary restraining order, the committee’s attorney, Stuart Kaplow, said that releasing the signatures on the petitions would violate the signer’s First Amendment rights for free speech under the U.S. Constitution.
Kaplow also alleged that signature collectors hired by Brown and Cordish had been physically assaulted by “blockers” hired by Gibbons.
One such assault occurred Oct. 15 in the parking lot of the Cockeysville branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, the complaint states.
Helchie K. Watts, a “blocker” wearing a Ronald Reagan mask, beat up a 55-year-old grandmother, Debra McLain, who had been hired by the committee to seek signatures for the referendum, the complaint states. The assault did not result in an arrest but rather a peace order from the Baltimore County District Court, the complaint states.